Saturday, December 13, 2008

Back to Berlin - The Food Post

I lived in Berlin for a year as an exchange student. Long ago. The wall was gone but Berlin was still finding itself and rebuilding. The whole city was under construction. Potsdamer Platz had the most cranes of any site in Europe.

Fast forward to my 2009 birthday weekend and a four day jaunt to the city where I first began to understand wine, had (almost) unlimited freedom and was exposed to more theater, museums and art than a girl from Red Deer would have ever thought possible. There is nothing like being 16 and in a foreign city to make you grow up.

Ron Telesky's Canadian Pizza

So C & I went back to this (for me) mythical place. We had Italian with friends of a friend (Thanks T&K!), who then took us to Ron Telesky Canadian Pizza. Sadly the restaurant was closed and we weren't able to sample the Gourmet Canadian pizza with chili maple syrup. Just one more reason to go back, I guess!

Brauhaus, Spandau, BerlinAte Turkish pizzas in Spandau (just like I remembered - the pizzas,not Spandau, that has changed SO much.) Had beers in the Brauhaus, just like the old days.

And then. Then we went for my birthday dinner. And oh what a dinner it was!

Pasta Divina. A tiny restaurant with maybe ten tables. The (rather good looking) chef in an open kitchen.

We knew we wanted a bottle of wine. There's no wine list. You tell the lady what you're going to order and she ponders the wall of bottles, picks one and yells at the chef who gives his opinion. We ended up drinking a Spatburgunder - a German pinot noir. It was surprising and lovely and delicious.

Reading the menu was a bit of a challenge. Though I got a compliment on my Germen (woot - still got it!) I wasn't entirely sure just what Gansekase (goose cheese?) or Rehrucker were but we ordered them anyway. (I think it was David Lebovitz who wrote that every time he ended up with something unexpected on his plate he considered it a language lesson.)

First plate: Artichokes in a gentle vinaigrette. Goose cheese, it turns out, is pate. And this goose cheese is a revelation of richness. Absolutely divine. Possibly the best pate I've ever had. Definitely the best goosecheese ever. ;)

Main: Feta and sundried tomato ravioli. Simple but simply decadent. C had roasted venison with shallots and a chestnut puree. It was the special. We weren't sure what it was going to be. I didn't know half the words.

Dessert: A warm brownie with mango chili sauce. (my mouth is watering as I write and I'm suddenly peckish.)

Dinner was an event. It was perfect for my birthday, perfect for me and perfect for a weekend in Berlin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Street Food in Stockholm

I can't even spell the damn thing. Let alone say it.


Stockholm is lovely. Surprising, sunset coloured buildings. Polite, nice people. (This is big, I live in London at the moment.) Gorgeously designed household goods shops. And Tunnbrödsrulle.

We were in Stockholm for about 48 hours for a friend's 30th birthday. We ate meatballs and lingonberry sauce, roasted reindeer and sikrom (creamy fish salad of deliciousness). But the absolute culinary highlight of the trip was the Tunnbrödsrulle.

A tortilla like flatbread is laid out and dollops of creamy mashed potato are laid down the center - a bed of fluff for the hotdog, condiments and some salad. We did not get the shrimp salad. (I had had some at breakfast and wasn't a fan. Aside - I also had smoked reindeer for breakfast.)

Seriously awesome. So good and so funny and wrong.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Perfect Saturday in London- the whole list!

A few weeks ago, Krista from Londonelicious put the call out to London bloggers: What's your idea of a perfect Saturday in London? The American girl who likes food and London but not cooking wined and dined her way around town and wrote about it here in the post that kicked it all off.

Others quickly followed, posting their idea of a perfect Saturday in London. So whether you've always lived in London, or whether you're just visiting for the weekend and want to experience London as a local, here's some inspiration for you and all of your Saturdays. Now get yourself out there and explore!

ML at SPAstic, Tales from a London Spa takes you around South Kensington and Notting Hill for a culture-filled day that ends in Holland Park.

Su-Lin at Tamarind & Thyme gets some culture AND shopping in as she trolls central London, with the riches she imagines.

Two entries from Mini-et-moi, a great site for modern mums in London. Sarah takes in Marylebone and The London Transport Museum while Michelle explores the South Bank, tots in tow.

Gourmet Chick hits all the foodie haunts--Ottolenghi, high tea at The Ritz, and Borough Market.

Danielle at Bloody Brilliant starts with a full English and then heads east to explore Brick Lane and Spitalfields.

Over at Gourmet Larder, Gregory begins his day in Borough and then works his way south through Clapham and Vauxhall.

Leah from Curiosity and The Cupcake arrives at Broadway Market bright and early and then enjoys a leisurely stroll through Victoria Park and east London.

Christine over at If Music Be The Food of Love has a musical slant to her day as she explores Hampstead and hits the town with her idol.

Blogger Priyanka begins at Cafe au Lait in Brixton and ends her day at Meson De Felipe and The Beehive in Borough.

Another blogger choosing to start around Borough Market. Helen at Food Stories kicks off her Saturday with a visit to Tower Bridge, wanders over to Borough and then ends her day with a visit to Shunt and by checking out Dinner in The Sky.

Lizzie of Hollow Legs is very busy geographically and takes us through Blackheath, North Greenwich, Trafalgar Square, Belgravia, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, and then back to Shoreditch.

Charles of London guide and his own blog, Grumblemouse, spends his perfect day in Islington, The City, Borough Market, Greenwich, and Shoreditch.

And finally, new-to-the-scene Liz (of Liz Does London, not to be confused with Lizzie above) hits Chelsea, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, and Parson's Green.

I think that's everyone. Thanks to all the great bloggers who contributed their perfect Saturday. Please feel free to republish this post on your own blog and add your own perfect London, or elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cold Fish in Venice

I have been very fortunate in that I have spent a great deal of time in Italy and have had some amazing and life defining culinary experiences there. Carbonara in Rome. Chicken liver crostini in Tuscany. Porcini in Orvieto. Pesto fish in Riomaggiore. Heaven in Pietrapertosa. The list is long.

But Venice? Never truly earth shattering. Never bad. I mean, it's still Italy, but never fantastic fabulous.

So when C & I went at the end of October I was adamant that I would discover what it was Venice traditionally ate and we would eat it and it would be glorious.

What I discovered was cold marinated fish. Sarda in saor. Sardines and onions marinated in wine, vinegar, sugar and saffron. Served cold. It is a sour/sweet cold fish dish.

We ate it first as part of a mixed plate of ciccheti (Venetian for savory snacks in bars) and it was good. Interesting, unusual. A good 'let's give it a try once' type thing. But when I ordered it again (kind of by mistake, I wasn't really reading the menu or thinking properly) C decided that really, he didn't like it all that much. I have to agree.

So. I'm still waiting for my Venetian Food Experience that knocks my socks off.

p.s. Just to be clear, so that i don't come off as a spoiled brat- the rest of Venice was lovely and wonderful. I heart Italy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Perfect Saturday

Londonelicious doesn't cook and consequently eats out a lot. I admit I'm a little envious at times. Recently she posted her Perfect Saturday in London and invited the citizens of the blogosphere to share their best days. Here's my contribution.

This account takes for granted a few details: the weather is lovely, we walk a lot and we never get too full. It also makes me realise that I am very excited to read other people's Perfect Days for inspiration...

My Perfect Saturday in London

Time Unknown. I open one eye to see what the light in the bedroom looks like. I judge it must be at least 9:00 and I slip out of bed and stumble quietly into the living room to find a clock. It's still misty outside, London still unseen behind the blanket of fog. I check the clock. I realise I have no inner sense of time and stumble back into bed for a few more winks. (C asked me recently if you could catch a few winks or if it had to be 40 - I think you catch a few and leave it at that.)

Actually 9:00. I crawl out of bed and get ready to go. This being the Perfect Saturday both C&I are showered, dressed and awake (in that order) by 9:30 and we walk up the street to Broadway Market.

At the market we hum and haw about what to eat for breakfast but settle on sharing a galette from the cute French girls and a samosa from the lovely lady of Gujarati Rasoi.

We buy some groceries (bread, cheese from Brian and the girl from Ontario, a sausage from the man with the chorizo - I want to follow the Perfect Saturday with a Perfect Sunday) and go get coffee from Jason. It being a Perfect Day he has something new and exciting - bright and fruity, perhaps? - for us to try. It is Perfect.

Wandering home with our bags full of grocery love I stop and get a mini salted caramel cupcake from Violet. It's a two bite cupcake and I share it with C but he lets me have the bigger bite.

We drop our groceries off and wander along the canal to Victoria Park. Peckish again we have chickpea burgers and Curious Colas at the Pavilion and laugh at the puppies and the babies and the ducks. The heron who lives across the pond catches a fish right in front of us. We wander through the streets of East London, along the way I pick up some ridiculously cute vintage dress and we admire the art galleries and imagine the home we would build to house our art collection. I bring up random facts that are perfectly relevant to the topics at hand.

After wandering through Borough Market (where we buy more delights in preparation for our Perfect Sunday) we find a spot, oh, say the Oxo Tower?, which is quiet and devoid of any mobbing crowds. We sit and admire the gorgeous view of London while sipping champagne cocktails. After too many champagne cocktails, I am slightly tipsy and very goofy so we hop in a cab and trundle home so I can change into something fabulous before heading out to dinner somewhere decadent, expensive and delicious that I've been dying to try - maybe Les Trois Garcons?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mini Sweet Potato Gratin

I first read about Ottolenghi on Heidi's blog. She had the cookbook and I thought it sounded good - a cookbook I might pick up for myself. And then I realised it was also a restaurant. In LONDON. I was/am tickled to know that I found out about a London eatery through a blogger in San Francisco. Oh Internet I Heart You. Sometimes.

It turns out that Ottolenghi was the secret location that my friend A wanted to introduce me to. So I would have found it eventually. But still.

The restaurant on Upper Street is somewhat manic. I wonder if they realised what they were doing when the designed it - the food is all placed (on beautiful platters) up at the front where you queue for a seat and where take-away takers pile in to grab their to go boxes. There is no rhyme or reason between the queuers, the take-aways or the servers. Madness ensues and envelops you until you sit down at the long white table and finally decide on your meal. Which is always delicious, and usually inventive in some, well, inventive way.

I quite like it. If you live in London, you should visit it. If you're visiting London, I'll probably take you there.

At any rate, I did end up buying the cookbook (from Amazon and it arrived slightly scrunched which made me unhappy but returning it was too much of a hassle.). And so far I really like it - there are a ton of recipes I want to try. My only peeve with it (and most other recipe books) is that the serving amounts are almost always astronomical. Sweet potato gratin for SIX to EIGHT? If the only time I ever cooked was when I had enough guests to make these dishes I would never cook. Do you know how much is left over when you cook for two people the quantities designed for SIX TO EIGHT? I am not one of those people who can make a pot of chilli and then eat it all week. Please.

So I ended up making (and quartering) Danielle's (Mini) Sweet Potato Gratin. And it was simple and creamy and good and served with a simple green salad made a nice, light dinner for C & I. With no leftovers.

1 Sweet Potato (or a yam, which ever you think it is - I mean the orange one)
a sprig of two of sage
1 clove of garlic
2 glugs of olive oil

About 60ml of cream

Slice the potato into thin rounds. Chop up the garlic and the sage and toss with the olive oil, S&P and potato rounds. arrange in a roasting dish, overlapping each other. Roast for about 40 minutes. Pour the cream over and roast for another 20 minutes or so until the cream is browned and thick.

There's picture coming but C has a cold tonight. (C's Edit: Now with photo! Still have cold though.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lentil & Walnut Salad

I picked up Nigella Express during the summer. Part of me didn't want to. It felt a little like she was responding to Delia's How to Cheat success, and maybe (just maybe) this book might ruin some of what I love about Nigella. But, I flipped through a friend's copy, and if you can ignore the calls for canned caramelised onions the book has some lovely, quick ideas.

Working, combined with an hour's commute (tube and a bus) mean that dinners have become much less involved than before. I absolutely rejoiced when, a few weekends ago, we had friends for dinner and I made a big Sunday dinner of meatloaf (don't knock it- it is fabulous), twice baked potatoes, minted mushy peas, spicy broccoli and cheesecake. I love cooking. I love food. I refuse to eat poorly just because I don't have enough time.

It's not even about eating poorly. I want to eat deliciously. All the time. I want to enjoy my rice crispies and cold milk in the morning as much as I love warm oatmeal and blueberries with maple syrup. I want to make macaroni and cheese the way my grandma did, and not reach for Kraft Dinner. It takes more time and effort but the result- oh the result!

I would rather spend an hour in the kitchen than an hour in front of the television. Food is worth it to me.

Having said that, I welcome any ideas that are quick and delicious. Because sometimes deliciousness on a weeknight turns into wine, cheese and crackers or wine and pizza from the Globe.

This afternoon's lunch was inspired by a recipe from Express. But I did not use canned lentils. That just sounds gross.

100g (I weighed them, see earlier post) green lentils, rinsed and cooked in plain boiling water til tender (about twenty minutes or so), then drained
50g walnut, toasted and broken up
one onion, diced and caramelised
walnut oil
red wine vinegar
one luscious clove of roasted garlic
salt and pepper

Dress the lentils while still warm. Let cool to warmish, add the nuts and onions. Taste, it might need a bit more salt.

Serve with slices of bread and gentle grassy young goat's cheese. Sharing a glass of white burgundy would not be wrong. Not in the least.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Portion Control

I have a digital scale that I got a year or two ago. It's pretty and one of the (many) kitchen items that I could not bear to part with when we moved to the UK.

I go through phases where I weigh things rather randomly - lemons, garlic, books, bags of flour to see if they really do contain 1 kilo...

Recently, I've started weighing portions - pasta, lentils... and I'm astounded to see that the suggested portion sizes on the packages are almost always bang on. And that I am absolutely terrible at guessing the correct amount of pasta needed for two servings.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How to eat a banana

I don't like bananas. I don't like their texture, their taste or their smell. I dislike them in smoothies, or as fillers in juice. Peeling them grosses me out. I eat them occasionally because they're good for you. But I never like them. (Though I did like them in Peru. They were better there. Smaller.)

For the month of July C&I got an organic box from Growing Communities in Hackney. It has contained a variety of nice yummy things but it always, always contains at least three bananas.

The first week we ate them. Dutifully. The second week we ate them begrudgingly. The third week they sat on the counter and looked at me every morning and I just ignored them. Now it's the weekend of the fourth delivery of bananas and we have way too many of them and they are starting to get brown spots on them. And I cannot eat them with brown spots on them. I just can't. I'm not that grown up.

So this weekend I baked. On Saturday I made banana pancakes care of Nigella. (Verdict: Not bad, quite moist, but banana-y. Sang along to Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake song in my head. ) Today I made banana bread, inspired by Joy of Cooking but with extra bits of goodness (almonds and cinnamon). I still don't think I'll like it, but if I put enough nutella on it, it should be ok.

UPDATE: With enough nutella ANYTHING tastes good.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pub Food at Home

Since moving to the UK I have eaten quite a bit of pub food. Most of the time it's been delicious, 'gastro' pub food of quality and delight. Down in East Dulwich there's a little pub called The Florence that is lovely and delightful, bright and airy with great food and cherry beer. On one occasion I ate a steak and mushroom pie that wasn't really a pie at all since the pastry was sort of like a cap jauntily placed on top of the steaming goo of steak and mushrooms in a thick, savory gravy. Very good. And so, at home one rainy afternoon with a bit of left over steak from the night before, some mushrooms and a random bottle of Guinness, I made steak and mushroom pie.

Onions, sliced mushrooms, garlic and thyme sauteed lightly in butter and olive oil. When the mushroom juice started to come out I sprinkled about a tablespoon of flour over and let it cook in. Deglazed with a bit of beef stock (from a cube) and half a bottle of Guinness. Let it boil and bubble, thicken and reduce. Toss in the leftover steak from the night before (cooked but still pink) and let the flavours join together. Salt and pepper. Top with a round of simple pastry that you threw together while the mushrooms were cooking. Tada! Homemade pub food.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pea & Broad Bean Smash

I love peas. They are my favorite vegetable. One of the things I miss most about Canada is frozen Green Giant sweet summer peas.

It's summer and everyone is talking about broad beans. I've eaten them in restaurants but have never made them myself, so I asked the green grocer how to prepare them. He said he didn't really know- he hated them when he was a kid and hasn't tried them since. Hmm. Amusing but not terribly helpful.

So instead I start poking around in the recipe books piled on the couch. I have Jamie At Home out from the library. It's a rather cruel book for someone who lives in a tiny flat in the east end of London- all about the joys of growing your own vegetables (I killed my herbs earlier this year) and eating them. I ignore Jamie's somewhat self-righteous tone and look up broad beans. He has a recipe for pea and broad beans smash that I take as inspiration and (after taking some liberty with ingredients, ratios and instructions) we eat this for dinner.

Smash the following together. A mortar and pestle would be ideal. I got C to do it with the bottom of a glass. And then the rolling pin.

Half a package of fresh peas (leftover from the risotto the other night)
A big handful of broad beans (time consuming and disappointingly few after you've shelled them all!)
Half a bunch of mint
35 g of parmesan (we weighed it)

Add enough olive oil to make a paste. Add lemon juice (I used half), salt & pepper to taste. Gently toast some delicious bread, rub ever so lightly with a cut clove of garlic. Layer thinly sliced pieces of young goats cheese, then top with the pea mixture. Serve on the lovely olive board your mom bought you.

Essence of pea.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sardine Sunday

I decided I wanted bream for dinner, after its overwhelming success when my parents were here. We waited in line while the fish lady finished with the people in front of us and glanced over the various fish in front of us- didn't look like she had any bream (we were later than usual- managed to sleep in hurray!). I didn't want mackerel as we'd had that last week (simply grilled with a quinoa tabouli). So I pointed to one fish, asked "What's This?". Dover Sole, she replies, lovely like this and like that. Chris and I look at each other, shrug say, "sounds good" and then she pauses.

"It's also our most expensive fish."

Oh. How expensive?

"Twenty pounds a kilo."

(Mackerel is maybe half that.)

I think the look on our faces said that we were not going to be purchasing Dover Sole. So she suggested sardines. Three per person. Cheaper than mackerel. Oily omega threes.

Sardines are not anchovies. But they seem the same to me. I realize they're not - but still... So we buy six little sardines for £2.40. The fishlady chops their heads off for me.

Next day for lunch!

Jamie Oliver says that if you push the sides down around the back bone you can pull it out. I try it. You can! The little rib cages and bones are strangely beautiful and I keep bringing them to show C. I am extremely proud of myself. Not only am I making sardines, I am pulling their backbones out. I rock.

Jamie has a lovely recipe for sardines that requires a bunch of ingredients that I don't have and am too lazy to go down the stairs and to the corner to get. So I improvise.

I fry up the leftover onion and shallots from Friday's risotto and add some garlic and crushed fennel. Peel and seed four cherry tomatoes. One regular tomato would be faster and more efficient, but this is what I've got. A big handful of parsley, chopped. A sprinkling of cayenne. Three heaping tablespoons of pre-made breadcrumbs (I feel like a bad person admitting that I had prepared breadcrumbs in the house. I swear the eggs are free range!). Mixed together with some basil olive oil. A bit thrown on the bottom with some parsley stalks. A teaspoon inside each sardine, then rolled up. The rest thrown on top. Into a hot hot hot oven for ten minutes then taken out and eaten with warmed up pita.

Paired with a glass of lovely Italian white wine - a new one. So good. Such a good lunch. I made sardines - hurray!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Simple Lunch

The simplest of lunches – spoils from the market, served up minutes after arriving home. Fresh, crusty bread sliced thickly and served with tomatoes, fresh goat cheese and wild boar sausage.

And to finish: fresh blueberries.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Black Treacle

I love these tins. I refuse to throw them out. I'm starting a collection. Soon I'll start taking them back to Canada as gifts and people will love me.

Freddie's Calzones

I read a lot of food blogs. I probably have 30 RSS feeds that update me of any action on the blog front. I don't actually read read them all- who has that much time, really? But I like to look at the headlines, see what's up and click through to posts that catch my fancy.

I always click through to The Great Vegetable Challenge.
Seriously, love the premise of this blog- get a kid to eat his vegetables by going through the alphabet and trying everything twice. They are trying vegetables I've always picked up and then put down in favour of something more familiar and ones I've never even heard of!

When it came to sweet potatoes they made fries (8 out of 10) and sweet potato calzones. Which sounded really good, and pretty easy and well, we had a sweet potato and so I made them for lunch one afternoon. And they were really good- a neat blend of flavours, sweet potato, salty cheese, herby pesto. Lovely.

Freddie's sister (who has great hair) has a recipe for asparagus twists that I'm going to try this weekend.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Market Vegetables

Saturdays are by far my favourite day here in London. Not only is it a day to spend traipsing about London, but it means a trip to Broadway Market (Leah's written about the market before). Once we've had a bite to eat, picked up bread, and had some brilliant coffee, we then decide what produce to buy. This is usually a random, higgledy-piggledy affair and involves us trying to figure out what we'll eat over the coming week. Needless to say, it's always interesting.

Absolutely beautiful, vibrant (and highly photogenic!), fresh rhubarb. I couldn't resist. Leah made crumble (one of my favourites) and delicate, little tarts. Sadly, rhubarb is quickly being replaced by English asparagus which has just come into season, but I'm hoping we'll find some more this Saturday.

A lovely, purple flowering broccoli which, sadly, was forgotten and rescued from the back of the fridge half-way through the week. Although not much worse for wear, it had lost some of its original crispness and as such, was eaten with a simple, lovely pasta. If anyone has suggestions on how to cook it, please leave a note in the comments.

Gorgeous, crusty cheese which was eaten with crackers, cornichons and bits of spicy salami. We typically end up browsing and grazing at the market's many food stalls, so this was the perfect snack once we'd come back from the market.

And lastly, luscious green beans. These were prepared simply and delicious, letting the flavour of the beans come through. Quickly blanched and then tossed them in a French mustard dressing. Brilliant.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Simple Roast Eggplant

Came home on Thursday night to a fridge full of food. That doesn't happen very often because we're usually down to the dredges by mid week, anticipating the market on the weekend. Anyways, among the veggies was a lone, lovely eggplant.

I sliced it in half, did the salt rinse thing, then scored it quite deeply, covered it in olive oil and stuck slices of garlic in the cuts. Some sea salt, a hot oven til golden and tender, followed by a sprinkling of parmesan. We ate it standing around the stove and it was delicious.

Incidentally, Nigel Slater says that aubergine is the sexiest vegetable.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


There is something incomparable about naan, that delicious, almost ubiquitous Indian bread. I've heard tales about people who make their own pan-fried variants at home, but I have always been skeptical. After all, proper naan is slapped onto the side of a tandoori oven and fished out with metal hooks of questionable hygenic standards.

One of the things I miss about Toronto is being able to buy President's Choice (a brand that is the equivalent of Tesco's Finest) naan from the local grocery store. I've been on the lookout for a substitute here in the UK, and I think I've found it. Sharwood's makes a fantastic mini-naan, with four to a package.

And the best part? Instead of heating it in the oven, you put it in the toaster. That's right: toaster naan.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pad Thai

I am, all things considered, a pretty good good. (She writes modestly.) I can cook. I can follow a recipe. I can make things out of nothing. But very occasionally something goes wrong. I can count four things that were so bad I couldn't even eat them:
  1. Pancakes- I mixed up baking soda and baking powder. They were disgusting. My dad still ate them. I was seven. They haunt me still.
  2. Pumpkin and porcini soup- Living in Calgary with Karla and her five foot long, free roaming iguana named Monster. It was gloopy. And gross.
  3. Parathas- these just didn't work out. They didn't look like they should. They were really heavy. Mike ate them anyway, bless him. We ended up going out of Springrolls.
  4. Pad Thai - early in my relationship with C, pad thai was the first thing I screwed up so much it was unpalatable- note to self: fish sauce is salty, so you probably don't need to add salt.
(they all start with the letter 'p'- isn't that strange?)

Tonight I have redeemed myself. Tonight dinner was awesome and good and quick and easy and filling and cheap.

I made pad thai and it was good.

I've had this recipe bookmarked in my Make Me folder for ages and finally decided to make it tonight. It's not so much of a step by step recipe as it is a suggestion for how to achieve awesomeness in a bowl - and isn't that what we're all looking for?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Un-Peruvian Avocado

The day after we returned from our trek through the Andes to Choquequirao we ate breakfast in a decidedly un-Peruvian restaurant in Cuzco called Cicciolina's (after the Hungarian porn star). I can't remember what I ate but C had the loveliest of simple delicious breakfasts:

Half a perfect avocado on multigrain toast with a few pieces of crispy bacon, generous parmesan shavings and a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

That was in October 2007 and every time I pick up an avocado (like today, inspired by Shauna's post) I think of it...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

About Curiosity & the Cupcake

Curiosity & the Cupcake is the name of the bookstore/bakery I would run if I wasn't so busy saving the world's archaeological heritage, helping to fix the UK's healthcare or getting overly excited about food policy.

It came about as C & I were wandering back from the St Lawrence Market in Toronto via the lovely  Nicholas Hoare bookshop while discussing our plans for the Italian espresso bar we'll have in our office (one day) and bemoaning the lack of a bakery in our neighborhood.

C&C would be about lovingly chosen books and a small, bespoke and ever-changing selection of baked deliciousness. We would have space for artists to hang their work, and cosy chairs where you could read and enjoy a proper (one size only) cappuccino or where you'd meet your friends (maybe we'd start a cookbook club?) for a snack.

It would never make a profit and it would be filled with love.

Instead I have this blog. Which will also never make a profit and be filled with love.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

An Excellent Korma, Not Patak's

Patak's is a bit of an institution in Indian Cuisine. Ever since I can remember, my mother usually had one or two bottles of Patak's in the house – usually one was an Indian pickle (if you haven't ever had one, imagine a savoury, spicy relish made from mangoes, limes or carrots), and the other was a cooking sauce.

Since cooking Indian on my own, I've relied on Patak's for the same: a bottle of pickle, a bottle of cooking sauce. Their Vindaloo paste is phenomenal, and I swear by it, despite having made vindaloo from scratch on a number of occasions. So, I was pleased to see that Patak's offers a korma paste, as chicken korma is one of my favourite dishes.

Here's the thing though: Patak's chicken korma sauce isn't very good. In fact, it's poor. The sumptuous, rich flavours that inhabit a chicken korma are missing. I've tried using more paste than the directions call for, less paste, varied the simmering times, and so on. Nope. No good. The half used bottle in the photo above is almost certain to stay that way until we clean out the fridge.

In steps Madhur Jaffrey, the definitive Indian cook. She's another institution – I remember getting her huge, red cookbook out of the cupboard for my mother at least three times a week.

Madhur Jaffrey knows her korma. And it's beautifully quick, simple and delicious. I've cooked hers a number of times and made some changes.

Madhur Jaffrey's Chicken Korma, with Edits

2 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaves
A small cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
1 clove
0.25 tsp black cumin seeds (or regular cumin seeds)
A small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1.5 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
200 ml (usually half a can) of tinned, diced plum tomatoes
4-5 chicken thighs skinned and cut into nice chunks
0.25 - 1 tsp chilli powder
A pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp single cream
250 ml water

Put the ginger, garlic and 3 tbsp water in a blender. Blend until you have a smooth paste. If you don't have a blender (we don't, despite L constantly pointing them out to me), just chop/press the garlic as finely as possible and grate the ginger with the smallest grater tooth possible.

Get the oil nice and hot in a wide frying pan. Once hot, put in the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves and cumin seeds (if you don't have the cumin seeds, don't worry about it. I never seem to have any, and it still turns out). Stir once or twice and put in the onions.

Stir and fry for until the onions turn brownish. Don't mess this part up. Be patient. I think my mother once told me that properly cooked onions are what make Indian food so delicious.

Once your onions smell delicious, without any trace of harshness, add the paste from the blender, and the ground coriander and ground cumin and fry for a minute. Then throw in the tomatoes and fry for another minute. Stir like mad if anything is sticking.

Toss in the chicken, chilli powder, salt and the water. Bring to a boil (this should be very easy, considering your pan was nice and hot when you added the spices at the start, right?). Cover, turn the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring once in a while.

Finally, add the cream bit by bit and cook on high heat for another 7-8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Stir gently as you do this.

Serves 4 without leftovers. Serves 2 with enough for generous seconds. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Introducing the Design Monkey

The Design Monkey is actually C.

C is my lovely, long suffering partner who caters to my whims and taste tests all my experiments. He is also the reason that C&C looks so nice. (He's a designer and photographer.)

C is also a fabulous cook. He makes (among other things) great Indian food and my favorite chicken noodle soup. Since this blog is really about the food he and I eat together and he works on it as much as I do, it seems like he should get to put in his two cents/tuppence every now and then, so he's officially on the blogroll now.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Saturdays = Delicious

When C & I lived in Toronto, Saturdays nearly always began with our weekly trip to the St Lawrence Market. We had our friendly butchers who flirted with me, the lovely lady who sold fruit and the fish guys who filleted our fish. We knew them, they knew us, it was a great sense of belonging and it was the first thing I knew I'd miss when we got to London (besides our wonderful friends- love you!).

Fast forward to April and our new life in East London. We have rediscovered Saturday Morning Markets days with a weekly wander to Broadway Market. The pork guy is beginning to recognize us, as is the two guys who sell gorgeous bread (must be early to get what you want), the coffee people (not the first stand but the one closer to London Fields) are starting to offer suggestions on different beans, remembering what we've tried the week before (Peruvian is my favorite so far). It begins to feel like maybe we might just belong here one day too.

But my favorite market find is Gujarati Rasoi. And the man who runs it definitely recognizes us. He and his mom run this amazing vegetarian Indian food stand- they cook the samosas up right there and they are hands down the best I have EVER eaten. Everything we have tried has been delicious (who knew veggie could be this good?!) but my favorite is the Samosa Chatt- a samosa atop a curry of chickpeas and potatoes with tamarind and yogurt-coriander sauce topped with crunchy puffed rice. Heaven in a little brown box.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ghetto Gourmet

Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries is one of my favorite cookbooks. I love the seasonality of it (I do a quick browse through before I go to Saturday's farmers market), I love the simplicity of the recipes and how some of them are more suggestions that a full on how to.

This week C made little Italianesque pork meatballs with lemon and parmesan and a spicy chicken and mushroom fish sauce concoction- all delicious and from Nigel's book.

So on Friday night when we came home hungry and tired from the Late Nights presentation at the V&A museum we turned to his always delicious book for suggestions and stopped by the corner store to pick up the necessary ingredients.

We ate baked beans, tarted up with a bit of brown sugar and tabasco sauce with chips/fries.

And it was awesome.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pear Pudding

My Great Aunt Jessie, whom I never met, is something of a legend in my mind. She was a formidable woman. She yelled a lot. I think my mom and the other kids thought she was kind of mean. But the woman could cook. Oh, god could she cook! Many of my mom's standard recipes are from Auntie Jesse.

One of my favorite comfort desserts is her Hasty Apple Pudding. It's not pretty, but it's warm and luscious and homey. My mom used to make it. Then she taught me to make it. I made a version for two tonight using the lovely pears in the photo and flavouring the sauce with some star anise.

Here's the full recipe. The halved one needs some tweaking. But this one would be perfect for a cold night and a family of four. Ice cream isn't absolutely necessary, but certainly wouldn't be amiss.

Hasty Apple/Pear Pudding

4-6 apples or pears

Slice the fruit and place them in a pan with a dusting of cinnamon.


50 g butter
100 g white sugar (flavored with a vanilla bean if that's what you've got!)
1 egg
250 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg.

Alternate between the dry ingredients and the milk til blended. Spoon over the pears.


250g brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter (that's 15 grams if you're weighing things. I like to weigh things. Spoons, lemons, pinches...)
1 tablespoon flour
1-1/2c water
a star anise for the pears or a tiny splash of vanilla for apples

Mix all the ingredients in a pot and let boil for five minutes. Pour over battered fruit.

Toss in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cake is done.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Market Finds

Our local market on Saturday is Broadway Market and I love it. It's small enough that you can wander through a couple of times before making your picks and is local enough that people are starting to recognize us. These lovely little tomatoes came on the vine and were fantastically tomatoey tasting, especially for this time of year. And I'm starting to learn the different varieties- way beyond plum, beefsteak and on the vine!

Oh cabbage. How I love you. How I cook you up with bacon and make you into soup, salad, pasta... There was a post on Gluten-Free Girl about what to do with a Savoy cabbage and I had to have one so I could try out some of the suggestions. Incidentally, one cabbage can feed two people for a very, very long time...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Yorkshire Pudding

My Grandma Bevington made fantastic Yorkshire Pudding (and crazy good roast potatoes) that I remember from Sunday Dinners with the Family when I was little, before we moved to Alberta. This past fall I emailed her to ask her how she made them (I'd made them before and had to throw out the pan I used) so she sent me the following recipe.

1/4 cup of flour, 1/4 cup milk, 1 extra large egg, a pinch of salt, and 1 tbs. water.

Mix `em all together and only beat long enough to get the lumps out.
Then let it rest in the fridge for a while.

Put about 1/2 teaspoon of oil or the beef drippings in 8 muffin pans and put them in a hot oven(about 400 F) and while they are getting hot take out your batter and stir it up. When pans are smokey hot take them out and spoon batter into them. I used a gravy ladle to measure them - that is about 2 dessert spoons full. I don`t have any measuring spoons here so I can`t give you a more accurate measure. The edges of the batter will start to set when you pour it into the hot fat. Hope you have a window in the oven so that you can see how they are doing because they tend to fall when you open the oven door. Look in your cook book for time and temp. If you need more add 1/8th cup flour and milk and an extra egg, the tablespoon water just makes them a bit lighter. DON'T let anyone overcook the beef.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Lavendar Honey Bread

This looks lovely, doesn't it? And sounds good- delicately scented with a hint of sweetness.

All I did was take a batch of whole wheat dough and add a teaspoon of lavendar and a tablespoon of honey.

Subtle deliciousness.